Session 1A – Album Covers
Robert J. Belton, “Can an Album Cover Be a Narrative? Can a Video Be a Picture?”
Abstract: In Popular Music Studies there appears to be a conceptual divide between the aesthetics of videos and those of album covers because the former move in time and the latter do not. One of the consequences of this separation is that music video studies tend to take inspiration from film and media studies whereas album cover studies tend to derive ideas and methods from art history. This paper asks if this isn’t a missed opportunity. It argues that album covers can and do exist in time, and it offers a type of analysis that shows how still and moving images both integrate with music to create a modal hybrid that is greater than simply the sum of their parts. One can, for example, profitably deploy narrative analysis to understand still images. Similarly, one can deploy art historical methods to assess music videos.
Albert R. Diaz, “The Sunn O))) Album Cover as Puzzle”
Abstract: Puzzles are not for everyone, and perhaps that is the point. They are “devised or made for the purpose of testing one’s ingenuity, knowledge, [and] patience” and, when they are unsolved, they preclude the solver from attaining a richer network of knowledge, cultural capital, and spiritual awakening. This paper draws on recent discourses surrounding games and play in order to reconceive the visual difficulty and obscurantism of the drone band Sunn O))) album covers as unsolved, multivalent puzzles.
In this paper I analyze and interpret a selection of album covers by Sunn O))) in order to understand how the band communicates through the visual domain. I explore the historical aspects of the band, the way it posits itself within a particular musical or artistic lineage; the social, the way the band invites and mobilizes fans to be part of a social project; and the aesthetic, the band’s desire to craft something with values, images, and icons borrowed from Western art movements.
This paper concludes that drone music à la Sunn O))), though often thought to be ascetic, minimal, and isolating, is in fact anything but; decoding the puzzle of the album covers reveals Sunn O)))’s participation within a wider network of contemporary culture.
Session 1B – Authenticity & Manipulation
Cora S. Palfy, “Intersections between authenticity and author: A perspective from music and psychology”
Abstract: A key element in a fan’s successful engagement with a celebrity is their ability to recognize a clearly projected persona. The current state of popular music, so embroiled in an interaction between visual and aural media, fosters an environment in which listeners receive information about celebrity identity from multiple vantage points. Multitudinous sources of information are made available through a cooperative process between media, record company, and artist called “authorial mediation” (Ahonen 2006). Though mediators such as videos, music, and press releases only afford small glimpses of an artist’s behavior and speech, Gayle Stever argues that, despite a fan’s limited first-hand exposure to celebrities, enough information is made available through various media outlets that accurate impression formation is still attainable (2010). Impression formation functions best when behavioral displays are consistent (Srull and Wyer 1989), and evaluations of personality have been shown to be surprisingly accurate given regular exposure (McCrae and Costa 1987; Watson 1989; Funder 1995).
Though “authenticity” as a term and concept has been highly problematized by popular music scholars (Moore 2002; Barker and Taylor 2007), this new evidence from psychology opens up a novel perspective from which to consider it. Frith notes that mediated elements participate in a type of intimate performance structure, wherein a relationship between the artist and audience members is simulated (1996). The intimacy therein contributes to judgments of authenticity. Consistency in mediation, then, could convey a more authentic (or trustworthy) artist, who confides in the audience their true persona. I examine the mediation and reception histories of two artists, Daft Punk and Miley Cyrus, to argue that authenticity translates to a practice of suspended disbelief: though the artistic persona is entirely constructed, the audience engages
Dawn Stevenson, “Buying and Selling Ideology: Music as a Recruitment and Retention Tool in Church of Scientology Super Bowl Ads”
Abstract: Sophisticated media initiatives of the Church of Scientology in the twenty-first century have demonstrated the Church’s uncommon fluency in marketing strategy and consumer rhetoric (Spohrer 2014), centering the organization in debates over the collusion of religious and consumer culture. And within Scientology’s considerable history of recruitment/retainment initiatives, music has long been exploited as a tool of persuasion—stretching back to the promotional compositions of founder L. Ron Hubbard himself, who believed that music is “the universal language” (Church of Scientology 2012). More recently, the Church has entered the high-profile, high-production, and commercially-coveted arena of Super Bowl television commercials, generating a public buzz through controversial 2013 and 2014 offerings that will form the subject of this paper. In these, music figures prominently as a means of coercion, through component categories identified by David Huron as key to the success of music in promotional endeavors: ideological branding, demographic targeting, and the establishment of authority, community, and long-term continuity (Huron 1989). Obscuring direct references to the Church of Scientology for the majority of the commercials, slick combinations of vocal timbre, rhythmic patterning, and well-recognized popular music idioms are used to punctuate textual and visual elements, connoting inclusivity and deliberately resonating with wider ideas of self-betterment, youth culture, and world improvement. The overlap of religious proselytizing for recruitment and retainment purposes and commercial marketing strategies is an unusual example of ideological branding within advertising, while also being demonstrative of more recent trends towards the sale of “lifestyle as product” (Taylor 2012). A close reading of Scientology’s Super Bowl campaigns speaks to the question of how religion, advertising, and media intersect within the public sphere, and offers revelations regarding both the long-term strategic trajectory of the church, as well as the broader, changing complexion of marketing in the twenty-first century more generally.
Session 1C – Visual Narratives
Nicholas P. Greco, “‘Every Night I Have the Same Dream’: U2’s Linear as an example of Barthes’ Vita Nova”
Abstract: About Roland Barthes’ later lectures, Adam Thirlwell suggests that Barthes’ desire to write a novel at this point in his life was ultimately a story of conversion, a decision to move in a “new way.” Thirlwell describes Barthes’ ideal novel as a combination of language and passion: “language as a form of passionate suspension,” that is, speaking of one’s passions in a language that is not a form of power, and in a way that foils the “paradigmatic, oppositional, structure of meaning.”
The Irish band U2 has been identified as a site of political engagement, often acting as a locus for the conflation of a kind of lived religion (particularly Christianity) as politics in the face of the global “human condition.” The band’s lead singer, Bono, is a literal conflation of religious ideologies. On the one hand, Bono reflects his mother’s Protestantism broadly, marked by a quasi-evangelical sensibility. On the other, he reflects his father’s Catholicism, in terms of service in a global context.
Anton Corbjin’s film Linear, a full-length promotional video for the album No Line on the Horizon, constructs a U2 that represents a “way out” from the oppression of the state to a utopian “beyond.” It will be argued that the film also represents a “new way” from religious ideology. The band is a “guide” throughout the film, suggesting a way forward, a way that is compassionate and cosmopolitan.
In exploring the film, this paper maps U2’s strategies for negotiating a Vita Nova, at the intersection of its own history in terms of religion and as a manifestation of a particular form of cosmopolitan Christianity, a lived religion that looks outward and draws others to do the same.
Karen Cook, “‘I am an American and this is my American family’: Music and Identity in ‘The Cosby Show’”
Abstract: 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of ‘The Cosby Show,’ one of the most highly rated and critically investigated sit-coms in television history. With this anniversary has come a nostalgic wave of television specials and inteviews, as well as numerous studies of the show’s impact, both then and now. Perhaps the biggest point of discussion about ‘The Cosby Show’ over the last thirty years is its depiction of ethnicity; it is simultaneously lauded as a landmark in the dismantling of racial barriers and criticized for its unrealistic depiction of the African-American experience. In discourse surrounding these issues, scholars have investigated ‘The Cosby Show’ through such overlapping lenses as economics, gender, and African-American history. Yet while the show’s prominent use of music, especially jazz, is frequently referenced, music has not yet been used as a primary vehicle of inquiry into the show’s portrayal of the Huxtable family. This paper considers the show vis-à-vis its musical content, which includes not only diegetic sound but myriad references to music through dialogue, visual representation, guest stars, and so forth. My investigation demonstrates that music is one of the primary means by which the show develops a variety of identities, most notably of individual characters and the generational gaps between them. Moreover, the types of music used and the attitudes expressed toward them by the different characters shape the portrayal of the extended Huxtable family within a larger ethnic and national context. This unique use of music thus plays a fundamental role in the construction of a complex, multifaceted, holistic identity in which the Huxtables are at once a repository for a specifically African-American heritage but are perhaps even more deliberately posited as representatives of the broader American experience.
Session 2A – Localities
Michael Audette-Longo, “Feel the Noise: Locality, Lo-Fi, and Independence in Bruised Tongue Records”
Abstract: Bruised Tongue Records is an independent record label located in Ottawa, Ontario that primarily releases post-hardcore punk rock music on cassette tape. The label also releases a monthly zine entitled Small Talk, which promotes local musical and cultural activities. While the use of these older media formats produces a predominantly local and low-fidelity (lo-fi) aesthetic, the label is also present on a wider assortment of digital music and media services, including: Distribution through online music retailers Bandcamp and Wyrd Distro; a profile page on music streaming service SoundCloud; profile pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; and a website created through WordPress. The manner in which old and new media interweave in the label’s musical and entrepreneurial operations is a core focus of this presentation; in particular, it asks after the fit between the label’s local, lo-fi, and independent operating practices and this cross-section of media formats. First, the label’s mobilization of cassette tapes and zines is examined and argued to provide a cheap, localized, and participatory means of producing, distributing, and promoting the label’s musical releases. Then, the participatory quality of these older media formats is argued to dovetail with the use of digital music and media services to both distribute and promote releases associated with the label. It is concluded that independence circulates as the imperative to “do it yourself” (DIY) within this record label, which synthesizes the label’s mobilization of both old and new media formats. This suggests, in turn, that the subcultural value of independence in this particular record label departs from notions of “resisting” the recording industry (which has been a traditional discursive trope articulated to the field of indie rock music), circulating instead as a focus on, and valorization of, local music and culture.
Farley G. Miller, “Southwest psychedelic: The 13th Floor Elevators and their ‘Electric’ Jug”
Abstract: In the fall of 1966, Texas’ 13th Floor Elevators released their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Amidst the record’s artificial reverb and primal singing, one “psychedelic sound” stands out as particularly marked: an amplified jug. Throughout the mid-to-late 1960s, many popular musicians used sound amplification to incorporate novel instruments with diverse physical properties and cultural associations into their musical practice, including harpsichords, sitars, dulcimers, and jugs. If instrumentation is an important carrier of musical meaning, generic belonging, and identity, then what role did amplification play in re-configuring the signification of old and/or “foreign” instruments and of the social constituencies with whom they were associated?
As a first step toward addressing this question, I analyze two songs by the 13th Floor Elevators, focusing on their unorthodox amplified jug; the performance techniques of its player, Tommy Hall; and the group’s critical reception. Best known as a novelty instrument employed by African-American country blues musicians in the early twentieth century, the jug’s status was ambiguous in a rock context. Critics often lauded the eerie, synthesizer-like sounds that Hall produced, and his novel instrument became a focal point in both interviews and visual representations of the group. Nonetheless, several members of the group perceived it as a backwater embarrassment and a threat to their legitimacy as aspiring professionals seeking deliverance from a regional scene into the national mainstream. Building on recent critical organology, I show how the “electric” jug functioned as an unstable signifier, connecting the group to the cosmopolitan, otherworldly sounds associated with psychedelia, as well as marginal racial, regional, and class identities.
Session 2B – Film Into Music: Taking Musical Inspiration from Visual Media
Sandria P. Bouliane, “Chanson à succès au temps du cinéma muet : étude intermédiale de The White Sister”
Abstract: En mai 1924, Le Capitol de Montréal présente The White Sister (1923), un film états-unien d’Henry King mettant en vedette Lilian Gish et Ronald Colman. Au Québec, comme l’a démontré l’historien du cinéma des premiers temps Germain Lacasse (2000), ce film a donné suite à une série « d’adaptations identitaires par transfert intermédiatique » (97). En effet, trois pièces de théâtre montréalaises directement inspirées du film ont obtenu un succès considérable grâce à cette œuvre cinématographique elle-même issue d’une nouvelle écrite en 1909 et d’un premier film tourné en 1915. Selon Lacasse, La vierge blanche d’Ernest Guimond (1926), Vangeance d’amour ou Sœur blanche de Marc Forrez et Sœur blanche de Charles E Harpe (1942) seraient des adaptations canadiennes-françaises de récits hégémoniques produits aux États-Unis dans un « contexte de validation de son affirmation culturelle » (101).
En partant de la brève analyse de Lacasse, je propose d’agrandir la sphère intermédiatique en y ajoutant des œuvres musicales diffusées sous la forme d’enregistrements sonores et de musique en feuilles. En effet, trois chansons bilingues, écrites, composées, publiées et enregistrées à Montréal revendiquent leur lien avec The White Sister : « L’amour pardone/Love Will Forgive », « Dis-le moi/Please Tell Me » et « Printemps d’amour/’Tis Springtime Again ». Dans quelle mesure ces chansons adoptent-elles ou confrontent?-elles le « récit hégémonique » de l’hypotexte états-unien ? Le croisement de ces productions médiatiques me permettra, d’une part, de faire surgir des réseaux entre les œuvres et leurs acteurs (auteur, compositeur, interprète, éditeur) et d’autre part, de rendre compte des processus d’appropriation mêlants image, espace (médiatique et symbolique) et identité.
Scott Handerson, “‘For Who Can Bear to Feel Himself Forgotten?’ Indie Rock, Documentary Tradition and National Identity in Public Service Broadcasting’s ‘Night Mail’”
Abstract: London based indie rock/electronica band Public Service Broadcasting employ extracts from public service documentaries as a central part of their work. While their music features audio samples drawn from these films, their live shows and music videos incorporate video samples from these same artifacts. In essence, the band’s music provides an updated soundtrack to the historic images being employed.
This paper focuses on one of the band’s most popular tracks, “Night Mail”. The original film (from 1936) already had a musical sensibility, combining W.H Auden’s poetry with a soundtrack created by Alberto Cavalcanti. Night Mail is one of the most noted public information films released by Britain’s General Post Office (GPO) film unit under the direction of John Grierson. The film itself provides an explanation of how mail is moved overnight from London to Scotland, but more broadly the film reinforces ideals of inter-war British ways of life.
In their contemporary updating of “Night Mail”, Public Service Broadcasting position themselves (and their work) amid this British cultural history, inferring a lineage between the near-anonymous creativity of the public service films and the ‘anonymous’ instrumental music that they create. The band is formed of two pseudononymous figures, J. Willgoose, Esq. and Wrigglesworth. In live shows, the band mediates interaction with the audience via pre-recorded audio samples played from a laptop. While film historians have identified many of the key figures behind these public information films, their mode of delivery is one that suggests being authored by ‘the nation’. That the style of the films is often aligned with avant-garde artistic practices (Night Mail’s Cavalcanti had previously worked on many of the ‘city symphony films’ of the 1920s) underlines the artistry underlying this anonymous ‘public service’. The title of Public Service Broadcasting’s debut album Inform-Educate-Entertain puts this shared ideology in the foreground, bringing the visual and sonic avant-garde of 1930s documentary in alignment with the visual and sonic avant-garde of contemporary popular music culture in a manner that also serves to interrogate notions of national identity in quite complex ways.
Curtis Perry, “Begone Dull Care: Norman McLaren’s Musical Legacy in Canadian Electronica”
Abstract: This paper assesses Norman McLaren’s work as an interdisciplinary composer of electroacoustic music, and his legacy in popular Canadian electronica. By assessing the music and surrounding journalism of Canadian EDM/ popular music artists Junior Boys and Absolutely Free, an emergent hermeneutic approach of McLaren’s ongoing legacy as received by the current generation of Canadian musicians is borne. As a corollary to comparing McLaren’s working methods as perceived through the work and related journalism of two contemporary Canadian musical groups, multiple avenues of inquiry are opened: a historical basis of a distinctly Canadian brand of electronica, the legacy of McLaren’s unique blend of conservatism and avant-garde musical proclivities, and the application of a working underlying ideology for electronic music in the classroom. Understanding electronica from a Canadian perspective offers a culturally grounded approach to the pedagogy of electronic popular music, in terms of understanding the dialectic of musical aesthetics and technique as espoused by Norman McLaren, his contemporaries, and his musical successors. It is especially interesting to assess McLaren as a musical “conservative” who nevertheless had constructive relations with avant-garde luminaries such as Maurice Blackburn and John Cage, and how this has resonated with today’s Canadian popular musicians. A further understanding of McLaren’s work and his musical legacy should offer a means for meaningfully integrating electronic music within the bounds of a conservative education system – McLaren acts as a crossover artist, both in terms of musical genre and as an interdisciplinary artist, and as such, more attention to the ongoing impact of his work is merited. One of the first concrete indications that McLaren’s music has resonated and influenced the landscape of Canadian popular music is ascertained, with respect to electronica, but also in terms of an overall musical aesthetic imparting concision and restraint, steeped in a visual approach.
Session 2C – Sound and Vision
Alan Stanbridge, “Tied Up With Strings: Irony, Popular Song, and Misinterpretation”
Abstract: In light of the fact that both postmodern theory and postmodern cultural practices stress pluralism, eclecticism, intertextuality, self-reflexivity, and a multivalent approach to meaning, the extent to which some cultural analysts – many of a postmodernist or poststructuralist bent – continue to assign rigid meanings to cultural artifacts remains one of the more curious paradoxes in contemporary academia. Ingrid Monson has offered one of the few detailed considerations of irony and parody in jazz, focusing especially on John Coltrane’s version of ‘My Favorite Things’ (1960), from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, which premiered on Broadway in 1959. Although much of Monson’s analysis is highly sensitive to both textual and contextual issues, I argue that many of the claims she makes on behalf of her chosen case study reveal a narrow analytical perspective that leads her to some highly problematic conclusions, whether imputing ironic motives to Coltrane in his selection of this piece, or stereotyping a range of musical traditions in an untenable fashion. The most immediate and obvious question to be asked here is why Coltrane’s transformations of the song must necessarily be regarded as ‘ironic’ – in common with all jazz musicians of the period, Coltrane was no stranger to the Broadway and standard song repertoire, and his Prestige, Blue Note, Atlantic, and Impulse recordings contain numerous ‘non-ironic’ readings of standards, some of them in modified format, but most often performed in the typical theme-solos-theme structure characteristic of post-bop jazz improvisation. My aim in this paper is to counter the analytical urge towards a fixity of meaning, highlighting instead the limits of interpretation – a point that is especially relevant in any consideration of irony and parody, given that the question of musical meaning is far more unstable and ambivalent than some commentators might lead us to believe.
Nicole A. Marchesseau, “Stone-Faced Portraits, Teeth Painting, and Precious Gems: A Brief Journey into Jandek’s Visual, Lyrical, and Sonic World”
Abstract: Initial visual encounters with the so-called outsider musician Jandek often come by way of onlookers’ observations of Jandek’s album covers. These feature—among occasional other themes and motifs—surreal interiors, generic exteriors, and enigmatic portraits. Images, appearing as recurring tropes, emerge only to later retreat into the ever-evolving arachnidan skein that characterizes the Jandek project. Sometimes captured in close temporal proximity to each other, many of the cover art images are released years apart, disturbing the temporality of visual series. Lyrical themes develop in like fashion but function more tangibly in the larger narrative, one that is—according to Jandek’s distributor Corwood Industries—autobiographical.
Remarkable in its longevity and marked by its iconic subcultural status, the Jandek project evades easy description and the public eye. Briefly introduced by the infamous but since recoiled Manny Farber essay “White Elephant Art Vs. Termite Art” (1962), this paper explores Jandek’s world of interconnected themes by investigating its temporally displaced visual subjects, the use of repetition in song lyrics for the purpose of re-contextualization, and the multifaceted gem “European Jewel,” the ubiquitous riffs of which appear 37 times over three releases. Unique in their persistence, motivic remnants of these riffs trailed the last full iteration of “European Jewel” for a decade after the final release of the song proper. Aesthetically similar to the qualities described by Farber, what Jandek presents through the use of images, words, and sound rambles through “termite”-like orneriness for decades.
Session 3A – Diasporas
Rosa Abrahams, “‘Africa we love you, Jerusalem, in my heart, soul, and mind’: Ethiopian-Israeli Identity Construction in Popular Music”
Abstract: In Kalkidan Mashasha’s live performance of “Let My People Go”, he uses language (Hebrew and English), musical style (Reggae and Rap), and text to create an artistic identity grounded in the local, yet also woven into the global African Diaspora. In contrast, Ester Rada’s highly produced video “Life Happens” bypasses the local, preferring associations with North American Soul/R&B, and creating a virtuosic and temporally flexible persona through visual and sonic parameters. Each artist employs YouTube and popular music as an “affinity space” (Jenkins 2006) for identity creation.
In this paper I analyze these two instances of popular music by Ethiopian Israelis, which demonstrate differing ways that Ethiopian Israelis navigate building African-Jewish identity through popular music. I understand this process as orthopraxis – performing in order to be – arguing that these performers use their music to work out issues of race, religion, and double Diasporic belonging.
From their entry into Israel in the late Twentieth century, Ethiopian-Israelis have had to continually negotiate what it means to be members of the African Diaspora living in Israel. By utilizing the English language, cosmopolitan global popular music styles, and YouTube, these performers cultivate a mediated identity that distinguishes them from the negative stereotypes of Ethiopian-Israelis, connecting them instead to the larger African Diaspora. Scholar Simon Frith sees music not only as identity forming, but also as a way of experiencing identity, saying: “making music isn’t a way of expressing ideas, it is a way of living them” (1996, 111). Both analyses demonstrate how these musicians use globally mediated popular music to emphasize their African identity through the sonic and the visual, and thus overriding “Israeli” sound. In each, the medium of YouTube serves not only as an expression of identity, but also as an experience of political and cultural lived selves.
Emily Lane, “Seeing Themselves in the Movies: Diaspora Identity, Popular Music, and Indian-American Wedding Videos”
Abstract: In American wedding videos, intimate scenes merge with popular music to form a cinematic experience of a cherished event. Highlighting familial culture and customs, online wedding discourse is a space where the formation and articulation of complex identities can play out, both in “real life” and in the interactive space of the Internet. As John Connell and Chris Gibson observe, popular music is an important part of how identities in transnational communities are formed. In the space of these online communities, both identity articulation and formation happen concurrently, allowing for the global online community to have a personal impact on individual users.
With these complicated dynamics in mind, I unpack the influence of popular music and film on representations of Indian-American weddings. As an artifact of a cultural event, wedding videos serve to articulate a couple’s identity through audio-visual representation. Furthermore, when posted on the web and disseminated with hit songs from Bollywood or American popular culture, these videos have added function of identity formation, as they become informants of culture to other viewers in the online community. As a cultural product, these videos serve as a reference point, which people can identify with or disassociate from.
Building on the work of Connell and Gibson, Annabelle Sreberney, and Thomas Tufte, I analyze the interaction of wedding planning websites, cinematographers’ personal pages and YouTube. I consider the posted wedding videos and evaluate the ways identities are articulated by both the wedded couple and the structures that work to create and disseminate their videos. Supporting my analysis with participant interviews, as well as online forums, comments, and discussions, I analyze the ways that identities are produced and articulated, as well as how these videos feedback into identity making in the diaspora as a whole.
Sean J. Lorre, “Around the Beatles: (Re)presenting the African Diaspora in 1964 English Pop Hits”
Abstract: Two months after Beatlemania reached North American shores, John, Paul, Ringo and George filmed Around the Beatles, an hour-long variety television program showcasing a set of the Fab Four’s top hits as well as a rather cheeky Shakespearian burlesque staring the Beatles themselves. In addition, the special featured seventeen-year old Jamaican émigré Millie performing her recent ska hit “My Boy Lollipop” and London R&B stalwart Long John Baldry’s interpretation of “I Got my Mojo Workin’.” That these two performances were included in Around the Beatles suggests that these genres – which both bore historical and homological associations with black identity and reflected black popular music making practices of the African diaspora – were gaining mainstream British recognition in 1964.
The relevance of these genres was further attested to in the English popular charts. The most successful songs to land in the top-ten were the aforementioned “My Boy Lollipop” (#2) and the Rolling Stones’ faithful recreation of Howlin’ Wolf’s 1961 R&B record, “Little Red Rooster” (#1). Despite the shared African diasporic roots of ska and R&B/blues, the two musics, and these singles in particular, were attended to very differently. Where “Little Red Rooster” was received as vital and original (despite its practically note-for-note reproduction), “Lollipop” was considered little more than a pop novelty.
Through investigation and analysis of the production, reception and material/commercial conditions surrounding the audio and audio-visual (re)presentations of blackness present in these performances, this paper will explore the racial politics of and what Richard Middleton might refer to as the “racial encounters” present in the use of R&B and ska in the mainstream of popular music in Britain at this time. I am particularly interested in reading these moments as events where technology and ideology mediate what was considered acceptable modes of performing identity.
Jessica Roda, “When musical representations take precedence over musical content. The example of Festival Sefarad in Montreal”
Abstract: In Canada, since the 2000s, official cultural policies have emphasized the promotion of cultural diversity by developing subsidy programs, which encourage the visibility of cultural communities’ heritage. In this context, several “ethnic” groups have implemented strategies such as the creation of festivals to be part of these programs and gain visibility in the public sphere. The Festival Sefarad in Montreal is an excellent example of this new phenomenon. Even if this Sephardic cultural event was initially created for a community celebration by a collective initiative, the heritage is nowadays used not only as an expression of identity, but also as a marketable product. This new use of Sephardic heritage has been established by individual actors of the Festival operating as entrepreneurs who have a specific vision of what the Sephardic heritage should be in order to be visible for the Sephardic community and the general public.
Employing the concepts of representation and spectacle (Debord 1967; Baudrillard 2003), which encompasses the processes of making an heritage, to analyse the Festival Sefarad, I will demonstrate how the musical representation took precedence over musical content in the heritage-making process. This analysis is based on an ethnographic study focusing on the media-based materials, discourses of the organizers and investors, and performances. By doing so, I will illuminate the role of images in the construction of heritage and its impacts on musical practices.
Session 3B – Queer Representations
Raymond Knapp, “The Musical Coding of Homophobia in Hetero Camp in Films of the Post-Sontag Era”
Abstract: In the years following Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” (1964), in which she “outed” camp as (predominantly) gay, some filmmakers who indulged in camp tastes from a heterosexual perspective carefully laced their projects with a gratuitous dollop of homophobia. In this talk, I discuss examples of this positioning strategy, which depended in part on using music in a coded way, as a signifier of homosexual “excess.”
I will discuss, in particular, key films by Roger Vadim and Mel Brooks that, in appropriating camp as a presentational mode, enforce a straight perspective through deploying homophobic humor allied with coded musical expression. Importantly for my purposes, Vadim’s and Brooks’s contexts and aims differed considerably. For Vadim, camp provided a comic rationale for blatant titillation and none-too-subtle commentary on the ongoing “sexual revolution,” whereas, for Brooks, straight camp was already in close alliance with the Jewish-American strands of humor that were his métier (cf. Sontag’s “Notes”). Examples to be discussed will include Vadim’s Barbarella (1968) and Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), and Brooks’s The Producers (1967), The Twelve Chairs (1970), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Young Frankenstein (1974). My talk will proceed from an overview of representational strategies (including heterosexual “beards” and gay foils) to a consideration of the different ways these strategies are implemented, to wider reflections on evolving attitudes toward this dimension of popular culture across this period, as evidenced in these films.
Maria Murphy and Craig Jennex, “Queer Vocality & Visuality in Lucas Silveira’s Autobiographical Performance Project”
Abstract: Since his rendition of George Michael’s “Freedom,” uploaded in September 2009, Canadian singer/songwriter Lucas Silveira has regularly released video recordings of cover performances on YouTube. While cover songs are ubiquitous on the video-sharing platform, Silveira’s are extraordinary, chronicling his gender transition and, in particular, the effects of his on-going administering of the hormone testosterone on his embodied vocal performance. Silveira presents a voice in process. In this paper, we argue that, by refusing a stable, sonorous self and eschewing normative gender categorization, Silveira illuminates the constructed nature of sonic gender codes and provides an anti-essentialist critique that invites listeners to queer how they hear vocal performances of gender.
We consider Silveira’s performance persona as “always-becoming,” animated by E.L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen’s 2011 text Queer Times, Queer Becomings, and examine how his performances of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” George Michael’s “Faith,” and Rihanna’s “Stay” negate the progressive narrative of pre- and post-transition often assigned to trans* individuals in contemporary culture. We subsequently explore how Silveira’s larger online archive proves generative for an examination of queer archival processes more broadly. Situating his performance work in conversation with queer political imperatives identified by J. Jack Halberstam, José Esteban Muñoz, and Ann Cvetkovich, we gesture toward a potential queer musical archive that is a process rather than a material object: a place of activity as opposed to a dwelling whose purpose is only to inscribe and subsequently conserve its objects. We contend that Silveira’s project is participatory, pedagogical, and resistant to traditional archives’ nomological nature; as a result, his is an archive that offers new possibilities for the historicization of music performance and the hearing of gender and sex.
Marissa Ochsner, “Camping in R. Kelly’s Closet”
Abstract: R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet is a serial rap opera released to DVD between 2005 and 2012. The series features a highly formulaic structure: each chapter follows an identical dramatic arc; the same looped E-major track is used throughout the series; and actors lip-sync to vocals sung entirely by Kelly, who makes it clear that he used these exaggerated conventions to encourage a camp reading of his series.
This paper examines two strategies involved in Trapped in the Closet’s camp dimension. First, I show how the series conforms closely to conventions of camp in music video and film musicals, relying on recent scholarship about artists such as Dolly Parton and Eminem to argue that R. Kelly uses camp to create a dangerous and hypermasculine image for himself while acting out multiple characters within the TITC world. Next, I explore the ways that camp receptive strategies may help viewers cope with both offensive content in the series and R. Kelly’s personal reputation for pedophilia, comparing my reading of Trapped in the Closet to Susan Gubar’s analysis of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, a film that uses camp to explore audience complicity in racism in the television industry. I argue that the multiple layers of meaning allowed by a camp reading can encourage viewers to indulge in content they might otherwise find too offensive, while considering, as well, that the same strategies potentially provide cover for those who may wish to indulge otherwise highly questionable tastes.
Session 3C – Visual Analysis
Krisandra Ivings, “Carrie Underwood’s ‘Blown Away’: The Juxtaposition of Country and Pop Strategies in Music, Word and Image”
Abstract: Carrie Underwood’s album Blown Away has put the famed country artist in the spotlight for her “spectacular crossover songs” (Keepin’ It Country ) and the album’s “broad range of styles” (USA Today ). The album clearly incorporates elements of pop music, especially in the title track “Blown Away.” Though Underwood’s pop influences in this song are noticeable and purposeful, it earned CMT Video of the Year (2013), American Country Awards Female Video of the Year (2013), and two Grammy awards the same year. My focus in this project is to identify how Underwood maintains her country credibility while openly using pop influences in a genre that relies heavily on tropes and traditions.
Drawing on the scholarship of Burns and Watson (2010), Neal (2007), and Keel (2004), this paper will interrogate the relationship between music, lyrics, and images in “Blown Away” and its accompanying video to identify where Underwood respects country norms and where she integrates pop trends. The theme of domestic abuse, explored in both the lyrics and music video, positions the singer with other female country artists who have addressed the topic (i.e., McBride’s “Independence Day” , Dixie Chicks’ “Top of the World” ). By grounding her narrative in an important social theme that has been mobilized by country artists allows her then to more freely explore genre influences outside of the country domain (i.e., pop and rock). In “Blown Away,” these pop influences are especially evident in the song’s production, which favours a fuller sound (achieved through an indistinctive blending of instruments and a frequently doubled vocal line) over country’s characteristic intimacy. By simultaneously maintaining her authority as a female country star and integrating pop music influences into her songs, Underwood expands the definitions of country music and what is deemed allowable for female artists in that genre.
Ben Dumbauld, “‘A Total Persona, Built of Parts’ Female Singers and the Limits of Visual Representation”
Abstract: The relationship between the female singer and her body is one of profound ambivalence. On the one hand, in the visually mediated culture of pop music a female singer’s body has become a preeminent site in which to contest heteronormative notions – as is seen, for example, in Laurie Anderson’s androgyny, Lady Gaga’s drag character Joe Calderone, or Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce alter ego. However, the very use of the body in this way serves to further reify the concept that the female pop singer is tied first and foremost to her physical constitution – a notion that, as is clearly shown in Leib’s recent work on how female singers are marketed, is as pervasive now as it has ever been.
In this presentation, I examine the limits of visual representation for female singers in the “indie” music scene. Taking as inspiration Cixous’ concept of Écriture feminine, I argue that the mediated transition from a song to a music video threatens to simplify the totality of the singer’s subjectivity. This is due to the fact that, while the development of studio production technology has allowed artists unprecedented ability to sonically express the multiple aspects of female experience, it seems much harder to achieve similar results with visual media. Within the standard music video, all aural subjectivities are collapsed into the singular body of the singer. To elucidate this argument, I will analyze two songs by female indie artists – “Reign” by Fielded (aka Lindsay Powell) and “La Toile” by Niobe (aka Yvonne Cornelius) – in order reveal how the mediation of the song (aurally or visually) creates different affects for the listener or viewer.
Alexander S. Reed, “Critical Theory Pedagogy Through Music Video, or, ‘You’re Beautiful, But That Very Utterance Bespeaks a Fundamental Tragedy of Existence’”
Abstract: Humanities educators perennially teach texts—whether Shakespeare or Kanye West—not only to familiarize students with repertories, but as focal objects upon which to train students’ critical lenses, impressing upon them that the processes and assumptions underlying our readings can matter as much as the readings themselves. This good-humored presentation illustrates the well-suitedness of music videos to teaching critical approaches through praxis. Specifically, it demonstrates a rapid series of six wildly different interpretive approaches to James Blunt’s 2005 video for “You’re Beautiful.”
Vernallis (2004) notes that “verbal precision may tax music video’s capacity for representation,” underscoring the looseness of indexical connections between word, music, and image endemic to the medium. Because of this looseness in its video and indeed the banality of the song itself, “You’re Beautiful” acts as a useful foil for theory pedagogy: Johnston points out, “Its bland longing is so universal” (2009) and Blunt himself calls it “one of the least meaningful songs on the album” (Gundersen 2006). Thus the comparative theses this talk ventures are cast into ideological clarity against the video’s literally white backdrop: 1. capitalism’s incompatibility with self-actualization: “You’re Beautiful [and Nothing More]”; 2. the hegemony of suburban whiteness: “[I’m] Beautiful”; 3. male rage in the face of feminism: “You’re Beautiful [So Why Don’t I Own You?]”; 4. the illusory nature of autonomy: “You’re Beautiful [but Please Get Out of My Head]”; 5. the persistent relevance of the classical sublime: “[I Am Unable to Process the Degree to which] You’re Beautiful”; and 6. the Kristevan inescapability of language: “You’re Beautiful [but That Very Utterance Bespeaks a Fundamental Tragedy of Existence].”
Amid the insight offered about the megahit “You’re Beautiful,” this spirited presentation both equips pedagogues with a useful new approach and reinforces the vitality of popular music studies within the broader curriculum.
Gabriela Jiménez, “‘Dead Grrrls Rock Too’: Gore and Mexican Folk Imagery in the Music and Musical Performances of the Bloody Benders (Mexico City)”
Abstract: This paper considers the use of gore and Mexican folk imagery in the music and musical performances of the Bloody Benders, an all-female, horror rock band from Mexico City. Central to the Bloody Benders’ audio-visual concepts and practices are gender, sexuality, and gore cinema conventions combined with Mexican folk conceptions of death. The Bloody Benders perform as and/or feature zombies, ghouls, vampires, calacas (skeletons), and La Llorona (the crying woman) throughout their songs, performances, promotional materials, and merchandise. Such imagery reinforces sonic equivalents–dark timbres, distorted melodies, disquieted rhythms, and sarcastically dense lyrics. This audio-visual contrast between serious commentary and humorous critique speaks to the Bloody Benders’ posthumanist concerns (Halberstam and Irvingston  2007; Miah 2008) regarding the state of nation. This paper focuses on the band’s response to the current situation in Mexico, where since 2006 at least 85,000 people have been killed and at least 33,000 have disappeared as state-sponsored organized crime and transnational drug markets have led to “a climate of violence, insecurity, and fear in many parts of the country” (Human Rights Watch 2013, 1; 2014; International Crisis Group 2013; Sinembargo 2014). After conducting ethnographic fieldwork this past fall in Mexico City where I worked with the Bloody Benders, I believe that the horror rock band contemplates life beyond death in early 21st century Mexico vis-à-vis sonically and somatically embedded imagery. That is, one of the band’s central questions, and the basis of this paper, is: how can music and musical performances mediate, and perhaps evoke, the residual energy of those whose death was marked by gory violence?
Session 3D – Performing
Laura Gonzales-Jordan, “Grimaces and Utterances: Learning the Cueca, Representing the Roto and Expressing the Self”
Abstract: Over the last two decades in Santiago, the cueca has undergone a process of revitalization lead by young singers motivated by the prospect of learning and fostering an urban rendition of this “traditional” and “national” genre of music. Arguably, their practice focuses mainly on the promotion of a singular way of singing and projecting voice, one that is inextricably associated with a particular figure: the so-called Chilean “roto,” a critical depiction of the urban “lower-class” subject. While some of the young singers have had the chance to learn directly from older cueca performers, most of the vocalists of the new generation have based their learning process on recordings, readings and, most of all, their own collective experimentation. On the one hand, sonic and visual cultural representations of the Chilean roto are brought to the fore through the imitation of past voices and performances, and on the other, they are actualized through the assumed link between voice and subject, rendered by both the singer’s sound and facial gesture.
By inquiring into the experience of René ‘Torito’ Alfaro, a cueca singer and former member of renowned groups such as Los Trukeros, Los Chinganeros and Los Corrigüela, this paper observes the representation of the Chilean roto on stage through the visual paraphernalia and vocal exclamations interjected between songs. More specifically, this paper seeks to examine the way in which facial gestures not only inform the singing technique but also are perceived as signs of subjective expressivity. Ultimately, my analysis of various archival materials –videos, audio recordings, photos and a personal interview—has pointed to an intricate relationship between voice and face, as they seem to operate as analogous devices both for conceiving the relation to the self via practice and facilitating the singer’s learning process.
Olga Nikolaeva, “Playing the Reality: Screen Visuals and Modified Bodies in Live Music Performances”
Abstract: The paper will addresses itself to questions of correlation and contradiction of the performer’s physical presence on stage and his mediatized and modified presence on the screen. Arguing the influence of the screen on live music performances the paper refers to a relationship between the visual expressions on the screen, the performer’s live presence on stage and the emotional experience of the audience. It underlines a binary influence of screen visuals and music and reflects on how images enhance the audience’s perception of music and the perception of visual elements is enhanced by music. Created this way a unique sensory and psychological experience with the stress on the representation of artist’s body on the screen is defined as a core element of the project. The paper will also focus on how shared phenomenological qualities of sound and image, such as the ability to come to the fore or fade away, “stream”, surround and reflect within, are combined and presented during the live music performance.
Exploring in particular Depeche Mode’s latest The Delta Machine Tour as an example, it discuss the live transmitted screen images that were exposed to visual (color operation, interference, close-up) and time (delay, slow motion, screen stills) manipulation. The paper is based on the methods of interpretive phenomenological analysis and relies on the author’s personal experience of the subject. Material investigation is based on the method of multimodal sequential analysis, with a focus on musical and visual parameters such as harmony, motive transformation, rhythm, phrasing, settings and editing. The paper argues the positive and negative attitude towards the screen visuals and their artistic value in the contemporary domination of “mixed media” art.
Marika E. Bujaki, “Video Games Live; The Music and Player Expectation in a Live Concert Series”
Abstract: The relationship between audio and video games is an important association that requires exploration. Video games have utilised both music and sound effects for the entirety of their existence (Collins 2008), with Pong’s distinctive sound as the beginning of the home console era of gaming, moving on to the full orchestral score accompaniments of recent games. This paper examines not any particular game for its audio content, but rather examines the phenomenon of video game music and audio outside of games. In 2005, concert series “Video Games Live” was created by video game expert Tommy Tallarico, and it has been an enduring and expanding series since. This concert series utilises the music of video games exclusively to propagate their concert program, creating an environment where spectators and players can interact and share their experiences from various video games. The “Video Games Live” concert is not only a concert, however, as it has an active social element to the experience. Prior to the concert, there are booths selling video game paraphernalia, Guitar Hero contests, and cos-play (costume play) contests all centered around the video game industry. Through the concert experience, the video game players are exposed not only to other gamers, but also a classical orchestra which plays the music from popular video games. This paper utilizes Leonard Meyer’s theory of expectation, as well as Stephen Neale’s verisimilitude, to analyse the music and musical setting of the “Video Games Live” concert series, showing how expectation plays a role in the creation in this immersive experience from the moment the spectator enters the venue to the moment they leave. This paper follows a video game player’s experience with music from game-play to concert attendance, and the experience of game audio in ‘real’ world contexts.
Daryl Ritchot, “‘Pop Culture Was in Art, Now Art’s in Pop Culture in Me’: Lady Gaga and her Theory of ARTPOP”
Abstract: Lady Gaga burst onto the pop music scene with the release of her single “Just Dance” in 2008 and has since become one of the most important artists producing music in contemporary society. Her popularity is so pervasive and celebrated that many recent works of pop musicology, and some more general scholarship as well, conclude by exploring the artistry of Lady Gaga and declare her the future of not only pop music, but of other fields such as fashion, performance, and feminism. In this paper I will explore Lady Gaga’s attempt to revitalize the art world through the creation of a new branch of art/aesthetic theory.
With the release of her 2013 album ARTPOP, Lady Gaga formally introduced to the pop music world her theory of ARTPOP, through which she hopes to collapse the boundaries between Art and Pop Culture. While current theories from Art History and Cultural Studies view Pop Culture and Art as separate, and in some cases equal, entities, Lady Gaga wants to instead view them as one-and-the-same: Pop Culture should be viewed as Art, and Art as Pop Culture. By examining the album ARTPOP, in concert with numerous paratexts produced alongside the album’s release—including her performance at the 2013 iTunes Festival, the ArtRave album release party, her collaborations with artists such as Jeff Koons, Robert Wilson and Marina Abramović, the ArtRave Tour and program—I will attempt to uncover Lady Gaga’s theory of ARTPOP, even though this might prove to be difficult since, as she states in the album’s title track, “[Her] ARTPOP could mean anything.” In doing so I hope to introduce the theory of ARTPOP to the world beyond that of pop music and suggest it as a “new” method of exploration for artists, historians, theorists and critics alike.
Session 4A – Music & Politics I
Alexandra Killham, “Nova Scotian Roots? Teaching Cultural Imperialism through Music education”
Abstract: The colonial history of Nova Scotia is a complex web of power, violence, and displacement that is often not acknowledged at an institutional level. The Mi’kmaq head tax, the razing of Africville, and racial profiling by Halifax police are only a few consequences of colonialism that fuel the prevalence of systemic racism in Nova Scotia. The impact of this history has left a permanent imprint on the social and political fabric of the province, and created a white supremacist hierarchy of racial knowledge–often resulting in Eurocentric institutional practices. The Nova Scotia elementary music curriculum offers a dynamic site to explore the ways in which colonialism has shaped institutional knowledge.
This paper examines the degree to which the Nova Scotia music curriculum denies the province’s colonial history and further marginalizes those not of European descent. Given that many classrooms in Halifax encompass the dynamic and historic ethnic diversity of this area, do music teachers feel they can effectively teach the curriculum in a meaningfully inclusive way? Do areas of the music curriculum speak explicitly using terms such as “us” and “them” to represent European heritage and African heritage? How does the curriculum define local music? When teachers have the option to insert inclusive and historically accurate depictions of local music, have they taken the opportunity? Why or why not? And importantly, what are the potential outcomes of this institutionalized eurocentrism on children of all ethnic backgrounds? In this paper, I consider the ways that Halifax’s musical life has been portrayed in its schools, and the consequences of the narratives chosen and not chosen.
Nicole M. Winger, “Yip Harburg’s Jamaica (1957) and The Happiest Girl in The World (1961): An Audacious Voice in Cold War Era Musical Theatre”
Abstract: Yip Harburg, although unknown to many, was one of the twentieth century’s most-influential lyricists along with Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin. Known as the “social conscious” of Broadway, Harburg was one of the first lyricists who vocalized the inequalities of class, race and gender in musicals such as Americana and Bloomer Girl. Most of the scholarship to-date examines these musicals and Harburg’s politically imbued lyrical contributions; however, aside from mentioning Harburg’s blacklisting during the infamous 1947 Hollywood Blacklist, there has been little discursive analysis on his later Broadway contributions and their socio-political significance during the divisive Cold War. This paper explores two of his final Broadway musicals – Jamaica in 1957, and The Happiest Girl in the World in 1961 – and contextualizes them within Cold War musical-theatre rhetoric.
This paper employs methodologies from American Studies (cultural and historical analyses), textual and discourse analyses. It draws upon archival primary research, including news and popular trade articles, and personal interviews with Harburg; it also builds upon substantial secondary source scholarship that analyzes the self-reflexive voice music can lend during times of political instability.
Although both of these plays were received as merely being “trivial entertainment”, they provide a fruitful case study in analyzing the intersection of political ideology and musical comedy. Through a close analysis of key lyrical excerpts, I argue that both plays were still imbued with Harburg’s characteristic political commentary, although it was much more nuanced due to his blacklisting in the prior decade. Through the medium of fantasy-inspired musical comedy, Harburg satirizes American cultural imperialism and capitalism in Jamaica and also critically analyzes America’s role in the Cold War in The Happiest Girl in The World. In turn, Harburg provides an audacious, dissonant perspective on America during the midst of the binary-driven rhetoric of the Cold War.
Matt Stahl, “‘We paid a price to sing this music’: The American recording industry, aging R&B performers, and the 1984-2004 royalty reform movement”
Abstract: The postwar explosion of independent American record companies producing and marketing R&B and rock ’n’ roll involved the recruitment and exploitation of many young black singers. Their popularity provided the economic foundation of an industry boom, yet changing tastes, fraudulent accounting practices, and indifferent executives left many to grow old in dire economic circumstances.
Drawing on primary source and archival documents, this paper—the first issue of a new research project—examines the 1980s efforts by aging performers and their allies to redress racialized economic injustice perpetrated through record companies’ systematic underpayment of royalties. It outlines salient aspects of the 1950s recording industry’s ‘racialized political economy’ and proposes an account of singer Ruth Brown and attorney Howell Begle’s innovative and successful effort to produce a systemic, collective solution that would benefit all affected performers and that would lead to the establishment of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Among other things, Brown and Begle uncovered and publicized a counter-history of fraudulent accounting practices and casual racism that helped embarrass companies like Warner Communications, MCA, and Capitol/EMI into forgiving old production debts, renegotiating 40 year old contracts, and paying millions of dollars in restitution.
Session 4B – Spaces
Owen Chapman, “Echoscape: Representing / Remixing Auditory Space with Mobile Devices”
Abstract: In what ways can sequencing sounds be considered a practice of mapping? This presentation will discuss recent trends in locative audio recording and mobile sound composition, with a focus on practices linked to sound mapping and sample-based composition. The “bird’s eye view”, two-dimensional model for sound maps that is currently the most popular form on the Internet will be deconstructed and problematized in terms of the types of representations that it enables and disables (De Certeau 1984, Massey 2006, Shakespeare and Watson 2002, Waldock 2011). The “documentary” or “archival” value of such static sound maps will be investigated and critiqued, while offering an embodied account of new possibilities for location-sensitive soundscape recording and remixing. I will draw attention to recent convergences in terms of audio field recording and musical “beat making” practices enabled by mobile media / audio hardware devices such as the Korg Volca Sample and apps like Intua’s “Beatmaker” or Akai’s iMPC Pro. I will also present an alternative soundmapping and music making platform developed in the Mobile Media Lab at Concordia University. “Echoscape” is an immersive arena for the exploration, sampling and remixing of sounds collected with the iOS app AudioMobile. It involves navigable 3d computer simulations of the original recording environments, built with the Unity gaming engine, Open Street Maps (OSM) and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data. The platforms discussed will be compared and contrasted according to their audio and visual components and the interface metaphors employed in their design, drawing attention also to the synaesthetic dimensions of affective responses to mobile media recordings/remixes of particular sounds from particular places.
Kyle Devine and Tom Everrett, “Solid Sound? Staging Perspective and Practice in the History of Stereo”
Abstract: Stereo is a living part of popular music and acoustic culture. Most electronically mediated sound comes to us in stereo, whether we are listening on complimentary airliner headphones or expensive hi-fi systems, whether tuning into the radio or streaming a TV program on a laptop, singing along in the car or chatting over background music at the bar. Stereo also dictates how sound engineers set up microphones and mix albums in recording studios, as well as how musicians of all sorts approach songwriting and arranging—not to mention how we view popular music and how we imagine it as an audiovisual phenomenon. Stereo’s multichannel descendants, meanwhile, constitute part of the pleasure of moviegoing and videogaming. In these ways, and many more, entire social and industrial formations have taken shape around the principle of stereophony. Indeed, the proliferation of stereo sound—its techniques and technologies—is so widespread that the term has taken on the characteristics of a generic trademark: in much the same way that, say, all clasping fasteners are referred to as zippers, it is common to call any sound system a “stereo,” regardless of its actual mechanics of sound reproduction.
But nothing about this—not the invention or acceptance or ubiquity of stereo—was inevitable. Nor did the aesthetic conventions, technological objects and listening practices required to make sense of stereo emerge fully formed, out of the blue. This paper explores the vast amount of work that has been required to make stereo seem natural, and which has been necessary to maintain stereo’s place as a dominant mode of sound reproduction for over half a century. We focus our analysis through three historical rubrics for understanding such work: staging stereo, auditory perspective and listening practices.
Mikkel Vad, “Seeing and Hearing Landscapes: Analysing Musical and Visual Space in Nordic Jazz”
Abstract: For decades there has been talk of a Nordic tone in jazz. While such a tone may be difficult to define the concept has nonetheless gained prominence among musicians and audiences. Often, writers and musicians use a discourse of the visual to describe this particular, but elusive sound; and often the idea of a Nordic landscape is evoked and even presented on album covers and other visual materials, perhaps as an explanation for the Nordic tone.
Taking Jakob Bro and Jan Garbarek as cases the paper will look at iconography and discourse of the landscape in Nordic jazz, seen and read on album covers and other visual material, and in reviews, cover notes etc., because visual representations of music in/from landscapes often serve as interpretive starting points in the discourse of the Nordic tone. As such, the visuality of the landscape offers a materiality to the sound and space of/in music, which also speaks to the politics of identity in the discourse of the Nordic tone.
The paper will propose that the connection between sound and the visual is not arbitrary in constructing identity and the Nordic tone. Rather, I will consider the idea of a parallel between the imagined openness, vastness, cold and coolness of Nordic landscapes and the idea of spatial openness and acoustic “coldness” in music and consider how musicians seek to make music that can be interpreted within such a discourse. I will analyse sonic space and texture in recorded music of Garbarek and Bro: particularly inspired by Allan Moore’s writings on layers, timbre, and the soundbox. This is not to suggest that there is a direct mimetic relationship between music and visual representation, or vice versa, but rather to analyse the discourse of the Nordic tone and its specific intersections of sound and the visual.
Session 4C – Personae
Florian Grandena, “Annie Lennox and Paradoxical Disidentification”
Abstract: During her musical career, Annie Lennox has continuously experimented with her own image and often challenged patriarchal representations of the female body within popular culture by either ridiculing and caricaturing constructions of femininity (as in the 1987 Savage videos accompanying the eponymous album) or by ‘recoding’ herself as androgynous (see the 1983 Sweet Dreams, Love is A Stranger and Who’s That Girl? music videos and her 1984 Grammy Awards live performance).
Although Lennox’s videos and performances have garnered some interest (Davidson 2001, Hawkins 1996, Rodger 2004), literally no attention, however, has been paid to Lennox’s photographic output: her series of experimental portraits released together with the aptly named 2003 album Bare is probably the most challenging. In Bare, Lennox questions the common objectification of female pop stars’ bodies by representing herself as a morbid character: the singer’s stripped-down body, her hair and her face are covered in a greyish foundation-like powder and adorned with specific props (golden shoes, false eye-lashes, studded leather straps), thus creating a sharp contrast between Lennox’s almost ‘de-gendered’ figure and the fakeness of her constructed identity as a pop star.
I will propose that such a photographic project constitutes a process of disidentification (Muñoz, 1999) that moves beyond dominant gender and sexual norms and transforms them for its own cultural purposes. I will argue, however, that, if the Bare photographs do critically acknowledge the shortcomings of patriarchal representation, they nonetheless invite problematic, if not normative, readings: as the artwork puts much emphasis on a de-glamorized, de-sensualized Lennox (that is, what she ought not to be), it fails to propose a positive alternative (what she ought to be) and challenge the singer’s reification as an able-bodied, conventionally attractive white woman while contributing to a paradoxical disidentification at the same time.
Nerhys Hall, “An Iconic Performance: David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops”
Abstract: On 6 July 1972, David Bowie performed his single “Starman” on the British television programme Top of the Pops (1964-2006). Now considered an iconic performance, Bowie’s appearance helped pave his way to stardom. Scholars such as Phillip Auslander and Dick Hebdige have shown great interest in the representations of gender and sexuality, as well as the issues of authenticity and artifice that emerged from Bowie’s performance. In response to the growing complexity and apparent “authenticity” of progressive rock, Bowie deliberately set out to create songs that returned to traditional pop styling and that celebrated artifice. For instance, Auslander points out that “by insisting that the figure performing the music was fabricated from make-up, costume and pose…glam rockers foregrounded the constructedness of their performing identities and implicitly denied their authenticity” (2006; 73).
Auslander’s seminal work on Bowie’s glam image examines his performances of gender and sexuality in his Ziggy Stardust period, however his research does not account for the musical content, expression and performance features. This paper considers not only the iconic status of Bowie’s image but also of his musical performance. By focusing on this live performance of “Starman”, my analysis studies musical context and expression, as well as the intertextual musical connections in relation to the visual elements of the performance. Notably, in this regard, I consider Bowie’s musical borrowing of another iconic musical work, Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow.” This paper aims to reveal a number of significant intertextual relationships that, when received, enhance our understanding of his statement about gender, sexuality, otherness, and rock artifice. In Starman David Bowie: The Definitive Biography, author Paul Trynka points out that similar to Garland’s song, which occurred in the midst of the Great Depression and helped to bring light to a desolate time, Bowie’s “blend of space-age futurism and glamour” responded to “the consciousness of a generation in sore need of escapism.” (2011; 163).
By examining Bowie’s image, music, and gestures displayed on Top of the Pops, this paper explores an iconic performance moment and interprets its multidimensional content.
Bernie Murray, “Inspiration as a Jazz Performer and Style Icon: Creative Expression of Josephine Baker”
Abstract: Jazz music and swing dance were dominant forms of popular culture in the 1930s. Jazz music was recognized as deviant because of the associations to cultural attitudes and behaviors. Josephine Baker was introduced to ragtime music, vaudeville theatre, and performing at an early age. Her recognition and acceptance originated from her musical performances in Paris. She intrigued and inspired people with her lifestyle, erotic costumes, and movements. Baker explored singing in French and English demonstrating her creative ability and openness to embrace new experiences. Jazz music captured the elegance and spirit of that era. Josephine Baker’s melodic jazz style and performance captivated the French people. Video has captured the provocative movement and style of dance of her performance. The music reflected cultural influences both individually and socially based on shared norms, values, beliefs, or behaviors. This presentation explores Josephine’s influences on current style icons and musicians. Her identity, sexuality, and creative expression have been copied by several performers. Visual documentation in this presentation will highlight Baker’s impact on the music scene. Her musical acknowledgements, struggles, and influence on performing artists will be emphasized. Whether the inspiration originated from her music or performance style, this presentation acknowledges contributions to jazz music in her preference of dress, identity, creativity, and stylistic expression of jazz culture.